Gavlak Gallery is pleased to begin our sixth season in Palm Beach with a provocative exhibition that includes 69 works by 40 international established and emerging artists. Sentimental Education examines the many lures with which art history seduces the artist and how the artist returns the favor.
The title comes from the 1869 Gustave Flaubert novel in which an impressionable young man falls in and out of love with a worldly, sophisticated married woman. Much like in the novel's affair, an artist's relationship to the history of art can range from impassioned idolatry to bemused flirtation to scornful critique.
Some works in the show are literal updates and clear-cut borrowings, such as Vic Muniz's pigment photograph, "The Bust of a Woman After Picasso," and McDermott & McGough's salt-print photograph, "Interior, Court of the Louvre, 1865." Just like love affairs, some are more complicated and harder to unravel, like Alexis Marguerite Teplin's "Georgie," a sensual oval painting that dabbles in both Rococo and Impressionist delights, or Scott Reeder's painting, "Panda Protest," which references the geometric rigor of Hans Arp collage, the monochromatic intuitive expression of Franz Kline and the cartoonish imagery of Philip Guston.
"I've always been fascinated by the line between homage and critique that first appears in the 19th century art and literature-- it's something I'm always looking for," says the gallery's Sarah Gavlak. She first became fully aware of the line in 1990 when, as a college student studying Art History in Pittsburgh, she saw the conceptual, reductive project Stephen Prina was making about Edouard Manet, Exquisite Corpse; The Complete Paintings of Manet. "This show is also about ideas of beauty and pleasure," she adds, "I think about these questions all the time. Are those ideas lost? Or do they still have any relevance or currency?"
Sentimental Education also illuminates the shared sensibilities present in works created during different time periods, the Renaissance, and Rococo to Dadaism, Pop art, and the Pictures Generation to the generation working (and still appropriating) today. Two main walls in the exhibition are painted a pale pink and installed salon style, a manner usually reserved for museums such as the Frick Collection.